He sometimes called himself that. Chalky, other times. Time…it didn't really mean much. He was in many places and many times all at once. To him the only times were The Waiting (now) and The Apocalypse (later). He was Pollution, an apocalyptic Horseman. He was so much, had such power. Yet nothing. He was pollution, with all the mess and destruction that contained, at the same time he had just one purpose, a tiny job, appear at the apocalypse. Sure, he spent time spreading filth throughout the earth, but often he wondered if it was worth anything. He rarely truly did anything. Small pushes towards outcomes the humans could have reached on their own anyway. He looked up at the smoke, a grey spiral exiting a factory, and sighed.
That was all he saw. When Dream became the Dream he was now he'd turned his palace into white marble. He'd thought it a reflection of himself, and had felt it fitting. Now he laughed; self-deprecating, mocking laughter; whenever he focused on it. In the most ironic of ways he felt like a dream. He was a figure of pure white in a building of pure white. Wispy and almost non-existent. He faded and went unnoticed against the backdrop. He felt hollow and empty, like his eyes. He knew of the old Dream, the way one remembers a well-known story, and felt jealousy. The old Dream had been a strong, noticeable figure. Black hair and robes against pale skin. He could hide in shadows if he tried, but he never was simply overlooked when standing in the center of a room. On a faraway throne in an unreal land the dream lord placed his head in his hands and sighed.
Pollution had taken to sleeping. It was one way to waste time. Being immortal he did not need rest, but he enjoyed the escape. He relished the lack of reality; sometimes he didn't dream, other times did: visions of black skies, and rainbow seas. Imaginings of a ground filled with litter, of towers of garbage. Sometimes he slept for a few minutes, sometimes days. Once he'd spent a whole month dreaming of a huge oil spill. When he woke he caused the spill in reality. It was not at all rare for Pollution to get inspiration from his dreams. Dreams which made him feel again.
Dream had taken to wandering the dreaming, often entering sleeping minds. He enjoyed seeing the lives and dreams of others. Maybe because he wished to be like them, with hopes and goals and aspirations. Maybe not. Even he did not know. It probably didn't really matter. Dream entered their minds despite not knowing his reasons. He spent most of his time trying to lose himself in the dreams of others. Sometimes it even almost worked. For a short amount of time he could lose himself in the wonders of mortal imagination. Then he returned to the blankness. Returned to the white.
One night Pollution had a strange dream. Strange in that he was not alone. Always, his dreams contained himself and the mess, never anything else. In his dreams he ruled over the filth, alone. The person in his dream was similar to him, from a distance he'd thought it was his reflection. Both were young-looking. Pale skin, pale hair, and clothed in white robes. When the other neared, though, Pollution saw his eyes. Or rather, the lack thereof. There were black abysses set in the white face. Despite this they were as capable of surprise as anyone else's. Pollution could tell the man was as shocked as he. Strange, but he hadn't thought figment people would seem so real.
One night Dream was wandering when he entered a peculiar dream. He wandered through a mess of smog, wondering if he was in an environmentalist's nightmare. But the dream was too calm, it's resident felt happy, not tormented. When he approached a person similar to him in appearance, his shock was great enough to show on his face. The stranger looked at him, with grey eyes as pale as the rest of him, and seemed to asses him for a moment. Dream wondered about those eyes. Would he prefer them, bland as they were. Or should he be glad of his one noticeable feature, his empty eyes. Finally it spoke.
"Who are you?"
"Dream of the endless."
"Oh, I have heard of you. I am Pollution, one of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse."
"I see. Greetings, I must confess surprise to seeing you here. I was under the impression you kind do not sleep."
"We don't really need to. But I've started recently. I enjoy dreaming. In my dreams I have filled the whole world with the mess, the colours and the filth."
"Fill the world with colours? I would enjoy that. I am white, and my palace is white. I've always meant to change that eventually…"
"No time like the present. So this is a dream, but at the same time true?"
"Interesting. I need to wake up now. You should come visit me again."
"Perhaps I will…"
Dream and Pollution met often, in dreams. They spoke of many things…
…"My crown?" he looked up towards the black metal, "I don't actually have it in reality. I'm waiting, it will come with Apocalypse. What about your necklace? It seems pretty magical."
"It contains a Dreamstone. A portion of a vast power. The power of the dreaming. It is a part of me; by keeping portions of my power separate from myself it is a tool, but also a coward's instrument. I avoid dealing with the extent of my powers by removing some"…
…"It's hard being the second Dream. Knowing someone else came before me…it's mostly just really difficult to try and live up to. At the same time due to the way the Endless work I partially am the old Dream; sometimes I can't tell if my memories are mine or his. It's just so strange…" a sigh.
"It's similar with me. I mean, the whole issue with Pestilence's forced 'retirement' is that now we're all worried that eventually they'll find a 'cure' to us. If the humans no longer create Pollution my raison d'etre vanishes along with my job. And if Pestilence, who's been around for ages and done some great things, created incredible plagues, was destroyed, why shouldn't I be next? I need to be better than he was and it's a constant weight on my shoulders. It's claw your way to the top, among the Horsemen, and the others have much more experience."
Finally, one night, Dream brought Pollution to his palace. The Horseman found himself in Dream's pristine white throne room and understood the man's discomfort with the place. He felt suppressed by the marble walls. Immediately black oil spread from the soles of his shoes, pooling around him, and several colorful wrappers appeared. They began dancing around him in a non-existent breeze. A small smile graced Dream's face at the sight, "They are like butterflies, joyfully fluttering about," he commented. Pollution understood the message not spoken. The litter was appreciated; Dream felt calmed and comforted by the bright garbage, just as he did. The Horseman walked around the room, examining the architecture. A film of grime remained where he stood, marking all his footprints.
"Why don't you add color?" he queried.
"I'm not sure what I want it to become. I need to envision the required result, but all I have is a vague desire for more color. No specific image for it to change into."
"Ah, well, you know my opinion on decoration of any kind," Pollution laughed in the way of one sharing a private joke.
"I do," the pale youth's lips quirked into a rare smile.
"Will you decorate it for me?" Dream asked his friend.
"You had only to ask." The marble walls aged and rotted revealing patches of greys and greens. A thin layer of oil covered the ground and ash coated the walls. Litter of all types formed, some creating furniture, others simply lying around. Dream surveyed the changes and a large smile spread across his face. Pollution had never seen the man so happy and was surprised at how much he enjoyed causing that smile. He sighed contentedly at the filth surrounding him. For Dream, the white was gone and he was at peace.